The promise of one telephony, communication, and collaboration system is now a reality due to the rapid adoption of Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft first announced that Teams could be used as a phone system with a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in December 2017. But for most organisations the call went unanswered. Teams was still in its infancy, and Skype, which had similar telephony capabilities, did not yet have an official end-date for support.
Fast forward to today and Teams adoption is surging. In November 2019 Teams hit 20 million daily active users, a stunning 50% increase from the 13 million users in July. This growth means many organisations are now looking to extend their Teams platform’s conferencing and collaboration capabilities into a truly unified telephony and communications system.
There are many factors behind the rise of Teams. The end-of-life date for Skype for Business (31 July 2021) has accelerated the plans of many organisations to replace Skype with Teams. Teams has also now evolved into a more mature platform, and will continue to benefit from Microsoft’s commitment to its on-going development.
Another key factor is the number of different voice, collaboration and conferencing systems in use within individual organisations. The desire to simplify and centralise communication through one platform is appealing.
Perhaps the most important thing about using Teams for your phone system is just how normal it can feel for your staff. At its most basic, using Teams with a desk phone to make and receive calls, transfer calls and retrieve voicemail, is all very familiar. Let’s take a closer look at what Teams calling offers your staff and the wider organisation.
Teams gives your staff more flexibility and choice to work the way they want. Staff can select and switch between multiple types of devices e.g. desk phone, PC softphone, mobile, tablet or Mac depending on their situation or preference. All of these devices can be connected via the one phone number and will ring simultaneously, allowing calls to be to answered whether in the office, at home or working remotely.
Teams offers all of the expected user features, including traditional dialling with a keypad or clicking a contact or favourite to call. Calls can be placed on hold, muted, transferred and forwarded, including setting rules for call forwarding. Voicemail can be accessed through the menu system, with recordings also sent via email. Caller IDs can be displayed for external users when available, with pictures and titles for internal callers. Staff can even set different ringtones to identify important contacts.
More advanced user features include seamlessly changing a call between devices when on the move e.g. staff can answer a call on a mobile phone when away from their desk and easily switch to their desktop when they return. A handy conversation history provides a central record of calls and instant messages with their contacts. While the presence capability lets users set a notification for when a colleague becomes available, to speed up inter-office collaboration.
For the organisation, the Teams platform can provide all of the necessary PBX facilities, while reducing support, staff training and hardware costs. The auto-attendant provides a menu system to locate, place or transfer calls to users or groups, including different menu options to different groups, and calls flows can be set for after-hours. Single or multiple call queues can be created with greetings and music, while calls can be placed on automatic hold while hunting for the next available line.
For Administrators, user set up is simplified e.g. voicemail is automatically provisioned once a user’s phone licence and number is assigned. Admins can also use the one Admin Centre to manage all of your users’ Teams settings, rather than needing to use another standalone telephony app.
Multi-device capabilities also provide an extra layer of redundancy to your phone system due to the ability to use a 4G or wired device, with the same number, in the event of an outage.
Calling with Teams is ideally suited to those organisations who want to fully leverage their Office 365 system.
For organisations with 300 or fewer people, CloudCALL 365 uses the Business Voice add-on to a Microsoft 365 subscription to enable calling with Microsoft Teams. For larger organisations or those with Enterprise licences, the Phone System add-on can be used with Microsoft 365 Enterprise E1 and E3 licences, and is included with E5 licences. A complete list of Microsoft licensing options is available here.
You will also need a call plan from a provider to facilitate the calls. An example is First Focus CloudCALL 365, which provides fixed price unlimited calls, including national, international and mobile.
The type of hardware used is optional for the organisation, e.g. you may prefer to replace desk phones with softphones or mobile devices, or a combination. Teams compatible hardware will be needed if you require desk and conference phones, so you may need to upgrade depending on your brand and model. Your provider should be able to offer any new hardware as a monthly amount along with the call plan.
Finally, you and your service provider will conduct a project to configure, test and cut-over to the new system. Depending on the call provider you should be able to retain your existing phone numbers if desired.
Microsoft Teams can provide a high-quality and extremely flexible telephony solution, with the productivity and support savings from an all-in-one communication platform.
To find about more about the best telephony approach for your organisation’s needs, and to get an accurate view of the costs and requirements, we recommend talking with one of our telephony experts.